12 June 2009

Missa Solemnis

I attended a performance of Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis last evening at Orchestra Hall. This was the season finale of the 106th year of the Minnesota Orchestra, and the final concert for Jorja Fleezanis, the concert mistress of the orchestra for the past 20 years. It was a big night, I think.

I’ve never heard a mass before, though I’ve seen snippets in various movies in Catholic settings. Not being Catholic—not even Christian—I really lacked the fundamental notions of what the Mass was all about, in fact. I know a Mass is celebrated, and from the translation I read in the program, the Mass celebrates the basic tenets and mystery of the Christian faith. The Mass, according to Wikipedia (my first stop usually) , was established by the Council of Trent (16th Century Ecumenical Council) as “the same Sacrifice of Calvary offered in an unbloody manner.” There are other aspects of the Mass which are important to Catholic practice and belief, and I suspect Beethoven knew about them. But for my sense right now, I want to talk about my response.

Michael Steinberg’s program notes are lovely, but they don’t help me at all. For example, he says, “The second movement (Gloria) begins with a might uprush symbolic of the celebrant’s raising his arms in joy.” What? He says, The first chord of the Credo is mighty indeed, although it seems muted in color and harmony after the Gloria’s final D-Major conflagration." What? I suspect that I could learn over time to what Steinberg refers, but frankly, as I said, this was my first Mass. And I am hardly a musical scholar, though I know what I like, as they like to say.

And so, unlike at a Beethoven symphony, I sat clueless. But, when it was all over, I felt spiritually uplifted. Now, of course, a month agao when I attended a performance of Beethoven’s 7th Symphony I was spiritually uplifted as well, but last evening, I also felt holy. Which is perhaps the purpose of the celebration of a Mass, but I do not think it was the liturgy alone that inspired me; rather, it was the music, and ethereal voices of the Minnesota Chorale singing the liturgy to Beethoven’s music. At the end, I thought applause inappropriate.

A wonderful end to my season with the Orchestra, to my year with Beethoven, and to Fleezanis’ tenure with the Minnesota orchestra.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please note that Jorja Fleezanis' name is misspelled in this blog -- she is not Jorge, as you have her listed.

15 June, 2009 10:58  

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